Secret Men’s Business
There was a funny segment on the news about ten or twelve years ago. There was a bridge in South Australia that needed to be built over one of the rivers. The local Indigenous people claimed the area was a sacred site and the authorities were not allowed access to it – let alone turn it into a construction site.
When the journos turned up to interview the local Aboriginal people they asked them why this was so and to explain the reason why the site was so sacred. Nobody was prepared for the answer “ … we cannot tell you why, in fact we cannot tell you anything, all we can say is that it is secret women’s business”. Ha ha!
Well here is some secret men’s business – but this time nobody is laughing!
Like many guys, I have visited Thailand on several occasions. I even took two years off work in 2005 and lived in Chiang Mai as a base. I went to Cambodia five times and also spent time in Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos. I had a monthly income from an investment so I did not need to stress about money or work. I had the most awesome time of my life, and I think it has left me with many questions.
They were the glory days and you may have read about my many wonderful adventures from the various stories that have been posted here on StickmanBangkok.
Each day I log into Stick’s site to read the latest quests of the various mongering Neanderthals who frequent SE Asian haunts. However, unless one is filthy rich or has a great retirement plan – (as Stick has so aptly stated on many occasions), sooner or later the dough will run out. As if almost on cue, the dough ran out and I had to return to Farangland for a rude reality check.
I returned to Australia in 2007 faced with the hard questions of ‘where’, ‘how’ and ‘what’. I am fortunate that I have a few different qualifications that I can fall back on when needed. I was able to work in my trade in a gold-mining town in Western Australia. This was hard work but just the place where one needed to be to top up the empty coffers in rapid fashion. Nobody wants to be stuck in some busted-arse desert town for two years. However, they had a short supply of qualified tradespeople to maintain the infrastructure that goes into keeping a community of 35 to 40,000 people running – one could virtually charge what one wanted for said work.
I was able to save some good money for those two years – but that was it. There was no social life and not many prospects of increasing ones circle of friends or finding a nice dolly babe. I was then faced with more life-changing decisions. At that time I was offered a 3 month long-service leave teaching contract at a private college in Melbourne, then the promise of continued casual work for the rest of the year, and a full-time position in 2010.
I am a qualified teacher by profession but had been away from the chalk (well, now it is the white-board marker) for over ten years. Believe me, with the rabble whom we call youth inhabiting today’s class rooms – it was with much trepidation that I decided to come back to teaching (I am sure Mr. Stick can relate to this).
I am here now and I was looking around the staff room recently at all the numb, broken men, just hanging out for their retirement plan to kick in so they can get a few last remaining years of happiness before they end up worm fodder.
I think it was Thoreau who wrote “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them”. Is the song still in you? If you still have some left in you how do you feel about the daily slog in Farangland?
I feel now as I look back on my two years backpacking around Asia – it planted a seed within me that can never be extinguished.
Though many of the questions I raise here may be rhetorical and methinks I will pose more questions than there are answers, I can’t help but think – as I look around at the state of men in society – that something is up and we men are in dire straits. Of all the hundreds of submissions I have read from Stick’s site – and many of them bagging out the hopeless sad examples of manhood one sees in Thailand – not many of them have ever attempted to address the reasons why men are in such a predicament and head over to Thailand en masse.
I have read a lot of Steve Biddulph’s work. He is an Australian psychologist who has written a lot about manhood and bringing up boys. He has helped me understand my own journey with my dad, and as a teacher dealing with 13 and 14 year old boys on a daily basis, he has filled in some of the gaps.
Here is how Biddulph sees it: “Because men haven't grown up properly, they don't know how to relate to women as friends; they don't know how to be mentoring fathers; they're in bondage to male stereotypes”, (burn your ties or use them to stake up garden trees says Biddulph).
“Society is disintegrating primarily because men are not initiating boys into manhood: women can't do that, however hard they try in the absence of their men. So fatherless boys form gangs (see the New Zealand movie 'Once Were Warriors'), or else become wimpish loners (for some of these 'nerds', their best friend is a computer), destroying others and themselves. Nowadays, in America, half of all children will spend time in a fatherless home”.
There is one young guy on staff here at the college where I teach. He is 24 has a small child and one on the way. He looks like a walking shell of a man and slinks around looking liked a whipped dog. He told me just last week that his wife never initiates sex and it has been about two months since he had it last. He said to me “F… the bitch, I am going to wait until she initiates it before I ever ask for it again”. Methinks he will be waiting a long time.
My best mate whom I have known for over twenty years – we went to university together – is just holding his marriage together. He has two small kids and a third on the way – his wife is always tired and scratchy and he has to go home from a busy day teaching and pick up the pieces. He told me recently “We are holding our marriage together, (just), but friggin hell man, it’s hard work”.
To summarise then I see it like this – all the married ones wished they were single and the long-term single like me (15 years since my divorce) are busting their guts to be in a stable long-term relationship.
Now here is the kicker. As I mentioned, I lived in Thailand for two years and have been back every year since I left. I look around whilst backpacking there at all the foreign men searching for that illusive babe to fill the hole in their lives. I see the same look on faces that Biddulph describes in his book – whether in a bar in Pattaya, the streets of Patpong or here in the staffroom in Melbourne.
In other words, we men leave behind our demanding nagging hippos in order to pursue the warm embraces of Asian belles – but nothing seems to change. I have talked to the jaded expats who inhabit the countless guesthouses in Thailand. I have heard the heartbreaking stories from lots of guys – reminiscing on times gone by – as they gaze into the froth of their beer glass. We have all heard the stories – ad nauseam – of guys who blow all their dough on a not so ex bar-girl, to find that they were duped. The money is all gone, their hearts are broken and they are just about ready to join the Pattaya Flying Club.
However, I wish to take this up one more level. I have a friend in Chiang Mai – I colloquially call him the ‘Love Doctor’. He is a professional (psychologist) and he works for a European company. He can work from his computer anywhere in the world. He writes articles for professional medical magazines, proof reads papers for other doctors and professionals and also translates. He makes good money and has a great lifestyle. He has chosen to live in Thailand because of the warm weather, cheap economy and countless babes. He told me that he is addicted to sex. A lovely condo in Chiang Mai, lots and lots of beautiful women and more sex in a month than the average Westerner who is married to the nagging hippo could dream of in a lifetime.
Is this guy happy? Is he fulfilled? Is he the antitheses of the walking ghosts I have described earlier? I am afraid not!
Here is Biddulph again: “Women had to overcome oppression, but men's difficulties are with isolation… The loneliness of men is something women rarely understand. The seven steps to manhood: fixing it with your father, finding sacredness in your sexuality, meeting your partner on equal terms, engaging actively with your kids, learning to have real male friends, finding your heart in your work, freeing your wild spirit – …many men have bypassed these in the search for easy love”.
Just today I had a conversation with a young guy that blew me out of the ballpark. I had all of my stuff brought out of storage and sent down to Melbourne for my new position (now that I will be living here permanently). The furniture removal company sent two young guys and they were very pleasant and professional. They were commenting on my archery tackle and the dozens of arrows I had bundled up. In the conversation I mentioned that I had lived in Thailand for two years and shot my bow on many occasions in the jungles that skirt Chiang Mai (Maerim).
One of them made the comment that he too was going to save a bit of money and head to Thailand. He said “I hear the babes are cheap and easy over there, because I have given up on Western women”
‘Given up on Western women’!! This young guy was all of about 22 – why had he bailed out so early and decided to take the easy road to personal fulfilment? What is it that men in our Western culture are picking up from women that is making them feel so inadequate that they need to search for happiness overseas in the arms of an ‘easy’ lover?
It breaks my heart sometimes as I look around and see what is happening to our beautiful young boys who are our future fathers. Men seem to be the disenfranchised ones in society. It used to be the women but like most things the pendulum has swung the other way and now men are about to cop it.
It’s almost not cool to be masculine anymore and it’s certainly not cool for boys to be boys and let off steam in old-fashioned ways. When I grew up in New Zealand as a kid I had the most wonderful upbringing. Picnics and wilderness, swimming in a freezing river in summer and chasing rabbits with my home-made bow and arrows.
Just recently I tried to teach archery at the school. The boys just loved it and I had the few naughty ones – who had fallen between the cracks – eating out of my hands (so to speak). They were so excited and loved getting their hands on my beautiful hand-crafted wooden bows. One boy said to me “Gee Mr …, I wish I had a Dad who could teach me to shoot arrows like you do”. However it all came crashing down around my ears a few weeks later.
A couple of the mums got their diapers in a tangle and rang the school. Next thing I was being vilified for teaching ‘our boys to be angry young men and using dangerous weapons’. I had never mentioned hunting or killing anything and it was all in a controlled safe environment on the school’s oval.
The stupid hippos did not realise that if their boys do not let off some steam – then they WILL be angry young men one day.
I believe that angry young boys are turning into angry young men – sick of sitting in front of their electronic crap all day long. The things that they were promised would happen have never eventuated. The network of friends they were supposed to find on the net have evaporated – because all the while they were searching and playing and looking – they never did build up the social skills needed to actually interact with and meet real people.
They have then turned to women (girlfriends and wives) to fill that empty feeling and hole in their heart. However that has only left them more angry and disenfranchised. As John Eldridge so eloquently puts it “… men can never hope to find, in the daughters of Eve, the answer to their emptiness and lack of fulfilment. The man has to take something to her and offer her the strength that comes from his masculine fulfilment. If he does not have his own answers to life he cannot expect to get them from her …”.
I then believe that it is these sad lonely guys that head over to Thailand – when all else has failed back home in the romantic stakes – thinking that surely it will be different over there. However, I assert that they have it all wrong. It is not about changing the type of woman that they are looking for, or finding a woman of a different culture who will respect them – as the answer to their unhappiness and emptiness. As Eldridge asserts – the answer is not in the woman – any woman.
Men have to travel their own journey. Stare into the abyss themselves – then come away with that inner strength that makes true masculinity such a wonderful sacred thing. Instead of driving men underground in their search for true happiness, society and women alike should be encouraging our boys and men to be wild and free. Find out who and what they are then go and offer what they have discovered to their loved ones.
All this debate about the mongering scene in Thailand of late – I think we have all missed the point. It is not about whether or not it is good or bad or moral or ethical or how it affects the Gross National Product of Thailand (although of course we should care if we are hurting somebody or causing long-term pain to anybody). It is about the sacredness of masculinity, about what makes a true man so attractive to all around, about the countless men who sacrifice their souls on a mattress in Patpong.
If he has ‘it’ within him then by all means go to Thailand and find what he is looking for. However if he is going there to find ‘it’ in the arms of some cheap woman – it just aint gonna happen.
I think the old Cold Chisel song ‘Khe Sanh’ sums it up best. Jimmy Barnes must have been onto something way back then and we all missed it. The story is told of a Vietnam Vet who has returned home after the war, lost and wandering. The words keep chiming in – “The last plane out of Sydney is almost gone…” – calling him back to another clandestine rendezvous in Asia. He’s gonna hit some “Hong Kong mattress all night long”.
I left my heart to the sappers round Khe Sanh
And my soul was sold with my cigarettes to the black-market man
…there were no V-day heroes in 1973
How we sailed into Sydney Harbour
I saw an old friend but couldn't kiss her
She was like so many more from that time on
Their lives were all so empty, until they found their chosen one
And their legs were often open
But their minds were always closed
And their hearts were held in fast suburban chains
And the legal pads were yellow, hours long, pay-packet lean …
And I never stopped the dreams
Or the growing need for speed and novocaine
So I worked across the country from end to end
Tried to find a place to settle down,
Where my mixed up life could mend
And I've travelled round the world from year to year
And each one found me aimless, one more year the worse for wear
And I've been back to South East Asia
You know the answer sure ain't there
But I'm drifting north, to check things out again
You know the last plane out of Sydney's almost gone
Only seven flying hours, and I'll be landing in Hong Kong
There ain't nothing like the kisses
From a jaded Chinese princess
I'm gonna hit some Hong Kong mattress all night long.
The last plane out of Sydney’s almost gone…
Very well said Mr Barnes – “…I've been back to South East Asia
You know the answer sure ain't there
But I'm drifting north, to check things out again”.
I guess it all gets down to this – as Victor Hugo so colloquially penned, (Les Miserable’s) “The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved”.
If our broken men back home aren’t feeling that love from their society, from their family and their women and worst still – from deep within their own hearts – I guess they will always be headin north ‘to check things out again’
PS – The quotes from Biddulph come from his book entitled ‘Manhood – an action plan for changing men’s lives’, pages 1 – 80.
You certainly struck a chord with me – and I bet you'll strike a chord with many readers.